Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Cancer survivors celebrate together

At National Cancer Survivors Day, Melissa Seabron and Elaine Sanfellipo, both of Eldersburg, realized the two knew each other.

Sanfellipo is a patient at the dentist office Seabron works at, Seabron said.

The two women also have another special connection: they are both cancer survivors. Sanfellipo was diagnosed six years ago with ovarian cancer, she said. Since then, she's undergone surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy of various degrees.

Sunday she attended Carroll Hospital Center's National Cancer Survivors Day celebration at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster. This is the second year for the event, Sherry Epperson, a nurse navigator of the Carroll Regional Cancer Center at Carroll Hospital Center, said.

"We get to see a lot of these people in the center and it's really formal. So it's nice to see a really informal, fun way to celebrate them and get to know them on a different level," Epperson said.

Dr. Flavio Kruter, the medical director of the Carroll Regional Cancer Center, said the day is to celebrate what his team works for. When people survive, they have longer, healthier lives. About 150 people registered for the event at the Farm Museum.

"It gives you that sensation of an accomplished job," he said.

Kruter has known some patients for 20 years, he said. Over time, they become more like family. Sanfellipo said part of why she came was because she has made friends in Carroll Hospital Center over so many years.

While Sanfellipo still has cancer, it's shrinking, she said.

"They tell me it's incurable, but I still keep hoping eventually it'll be [cured]. You have to do that," she said.

While Sanfellipo has been surviving ovarian cancer for six years, Seabron was just diagnosed with breast cancer in April, Seabron said. When she found out, she went through stages of shock and anger, she said.

"You go through it, then you learn to accept it, and then you fight," Seabron said.

At the end of the day, life goes on, she said. With a full-time job and both a 4-year-old and 19-year-old, life is busy.

"I still have to get up every day, go to work and do my regular tasks," she said.

The first months for Seabron have been surreal. Attending events such as National Cancer Survivors Day helps because it encourages positive stories of survival, she said.

Stories of survival include Shelley Blank's, who has survived several different types of cancer. Blank has survived breast cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma, which is a form of blood cancer, had a malignant polyp removed in her colon and a benign form of melanoma, she said.

Blank, of Reisterstown, heard of the event and wanted to come out to celebrate. While never a patient at Carroll Hospital Center, Blank said she's just happy to be cancer free.

"I'm so glad there are so many people here," she said. "I go to the survivor day at Sinai [Hospital of Baltimore] and every year there are more and more people. Some day they're not going to fit in the room which is wonderful."

Blank said because of all the new treatments, she thinks more people are surviving cancer than before, and National Survivors Day proves it. Cancer free since 2009, Blank said every day she feels grateful to be alive.

"The lesson you learn from this is that it's doable. It's rough, but you can get through it," she said.